Couch surfing, a free, short-term solution!

Article reviewed: 2013/01/28 | Next review due: 2014/08/16

If you don't have much cash to spare when you first arrive, there is a way to get cheap accommodation for between £70-90 per week. Some people rent out their sofa in exchange for a token of rent money. While privacy is virtually non-existent, it's also a good way of making friends in a new city.

Clara, 18, already hardened backpacker, opted for this original solution when she arrived in London last May,

I travel a lot and I've stayed with 25 people around the world. I contacted a friend who'd recently moved to London and stayed on her sofa for a fortnight. We got on so well that we eventually decided to move in together and got a flashare.

If, like Clara, you're tempted by this type temporary accommodation, you can find deals and offers like this on gumtree.

Couch surfing is an almost free way to travel, with the offer of a sofa to sleep on and a roof over your head in exchange for offering the same when you have a place of your own. This community was created thanks to the internet and the www.couchsurfing.com site, where you can find people willing to welcome you onto their couch. This is obviously a temporary solution, so don't overstay your welcome!

The founder of couchsurfing.org is Casey Fenton. She came up with the idea after spending a weekend in Iceland sleeping on the couches of local students. She defines the ideology as "establishing links between people and places at an international level, to create cultural exchanges, promote collective awareness and tolerance, and to facilitate understanding between different cultures."

This organisation is totally non-profit, and there are currently almost 1 million couch surfers in 231 countries. There are over 14,000 couch surfers in London alone.

To join the community of couch surfers, you can register on the website and can also choose to offer accommodation to fellow couch surfers in the future. Matthew, 27, remembers his experience of sofa surfing in London:

I was coming to London for six months to study and I needed a cheap place to stay. I had already registered on the couch surfing site before I'd left and I quickly found a place staying with a Brazilian guy called Joao. It was a very rewarding experience, he showed me around the neighborhood where he lived in Holborn and we quickly became friends After that, whenever he came to Paris, he stayed with me.

But Matthew didn't stay the whole six months on his new friend's sofa,

It just served as a way to familiarise myself with the city and to make new friends.

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